Karnataka polls: Belagavi’s sugar to sour miser netas’ chances

BELAGAVI: It is drizzling and lightning flashes across the sky in MK Hubbali. Rayappa Basavanappa Karaguppi, working in his sugar cane fields, takes a leisurely walk towards the shelter of a tree. There is a smile on his face because these pre-monsoon showers are welcome in this rain-fed area, but farmers have other serious concerns, like the erratic pricing done for their harvest.

A local sugar factory had announced that they would buy sugar cane at Rs 3,000 per tonne but backed out later. Farmers like Rayappa were forced to sell for Rs 2,600 per tonne. “I lost Rs 1.6 lakh for selling 400 tonne at Rs 2600 per tonne last season. How will my 17 -member, joint family with six college-going children survive if we lose this much in one stroke”, he asks.

The sudden roll back of prices by the factories has left more than 12 lakh sugarcane growers in the district in the lurch.  There are also pending arrears to be cleared by the 22 sugar factories in Belagavi.
Sugar Cane Growers Association President Babu Baramappa Uppasi says that factories in Belagavi district alone have to pay dues of more than Rs 300 cr to farmers during the year.

More than 10 factories are owned by sitting MPs, MLAs, former Ministers and few other factories are indirectly controlled by their families and followers in the co-operative sector. “Who do we ask for help, when factories are run by mallaks (indiviual owners) who are big in politics,” asks Rayappa, adding that he will simply take what is given.

But, many feel that elections are a time to teach these leaders a lesson. “We will stand united and show our strength on May 12. If not, we will continue to struggle for a few more years in the hands of netas who have a strong hold over the sugar lobby,” saysa farmer in Sanapur of Kittur.

Althaf Jalikopp of Heri Bagiwadi too says that ‘vote’ is a powerful tool to register their protest. “I was paid Rs 2,600 per tonne last season. There are a few factories that paid Rs 2,500 per tonne and then there are some who have not paid for January and February deliveries,” he says. Althaf says that yields have come down too, with no rains, from 65 tonne per acre to 40 tonnes.

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